Blog Archive

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Families, Hispanic leaders upset by raids

By Hillary Gavan
September 16, 2011

After Tuesday's roundup of immigrants allegedly tied to crime and gang activity, some members and representatives of the Hispanic community say they are distrustful of law enforcement now and feel reluctant to report crimes or act as witnesses.

Some said the Beloit Police Department should leave immigration enforcement to Homeland Security.

Police said seven people were taken into administrative custody Tuesday during a Beloit roundup of immigrants by federal officials. The federal officials say those taken into custody are tied to crime and gangs. The operation was conducted by federal Homeland Security agents with the help of Beloit police.

During the roundup, Beloit police knocked on the doors where suspects might be living. Capt. Vince Sciame stressed that they were face-to-face meetings and included use of a Spanish speaking officer. He said the roundup was peaceful and simply involved talking to various families. Those the police were targeting were arrested, handcuffed and then processed by Homeland Security investigators.

Sara Dady, an immigration attorney with Dady and Hoffmann in Rockford, said local police shouldn't get involved with civil law enforcement. The Homeland Security officers refused to identify themselves when they came to homes and workplaces, she said.

She added that the seven administrative arrests will cause the Beloit Hispanic population to be distrustful and reluctant to contact police regarding crime.

"There's little information about how truly dangerous these people are. Some of these people they were running with the wrong crowd and had a minor disorderly conduct charge, but have since turned their lives around," Dady said.

Dady said lawful permanent residents were also subject to being removed if they had only minor convictions.

"I'm not sure that this operation is the best use of local resources," she said. "The Beloit Police Department should not be involved. The local police department has its own responsibility to keep community safe. Participating with customs and immigration undermines that ability."

Pastor Neddy Astudillo said the raids were deceptive and police weren't honest about what they were doing when they approached local Hispanic families. Police said they just wanted to talk, and accompanying Homeland Security officers weren't dressed in uniform or properly identified.

Kitzia Colin and her mother Veronica Colin explained what happened to their family during the roundup. The mother and daughter said police came looking for brother and son Nestali Colin, 21. According to the Colins, police assured the family they only wanted to talk to Nestali. The family called him at work at a Fontana hotel and ordered him home to speak with police. They said police assured them that Nestali would be able to return to work after speaking to police. After the conversation, Nestali was immediately taken into custody.

The Colins are upset that they have not been able to speak with Nestali and cannot get any information about his status. He is being held in detention in Dodge County. The family said he only had one legal problem with a fight but had already been to court to address the issue.

"We are not sure about his connection to a gang but he told my parents that he didn't have problems with gangs," Kitzia Colin said. "We are not able to speak to him or anything. My mom's pregnant and it scared her. Police weren't clear about what they were doing."

Nancy Marquez said there was also an arrest in her family of a young man. She said her family was eager to cooperate with police and thought they were going to help police with fighting crime. After taking a shower the young man immediately went down to talk with police. Instead of reporting the crime, the young man was immediately taken into custody and felt tricked by police, the family said.

Dady stressed that deportation isn't as simple as shipping an immigrant back to Mexico. The suspects may spend up to two years in legal proceedings and may eventually return home.

Astudillo acknowledged that police did contact her about the upcoming roundup and encouraged the support of families impacted by the raids. However she said she's still concerned that the roundup bordered on harassment of innocent Hispanics.

"When local police enforcement cooperates with immigration officials there is a deterioration of trust between immigrant community and police. We need to be able to trust the police, if we are going to have a real safe community. People need to know when the immigrant community becomes fearful, it won't report crime," she said. "We need to evaluate how positive this approach is. We lose the population's trust for capturing 7 people who may or may not be a threat. It's not just about gang members. The wave goes farther."

Astudillo said the challenge for Hispanic leaders is getting information to the immigrant community. Many law abiding members are avoiding public places and are scared to even drive their children to school. Without a Spanish newspaper or radio station in Beloit, it's hard to communicate what is going on as part of the roundup activities.

Capt. Vince Sciame stressed that the people taken into custody had some sort of criminal history or gang affiliation.

"Beloit police will continue to work with Homeland Security. We feel obligated to assist federal agencies and are obligated by law to offer mutual aid. For us to deny that would be professional suicide. We are here in a supportive role to the point," he said.

Sciame said police will be happy to speak to any residents about their concerns regarding the roundup, and added that the average law abiding Hispanic living in Beloit has nothing to fear.